Bulletproof and Ballistic Glass

The centerpiece of many bullet-resistant barrier systems is ballistic glass. Several of the most common types of security glass are fabricated using additional materials such as polycarbonate and acrylic, and therefore these transparent barriers may also be referred to as “glazing.” Understanding the specific qualities of each type of bullet-resistant glazing is essential to choosing the right product for your system.

Samples of various types of ballistic glass

SAFETY GLASS FOR YOUR BULLETPROOF PROJECT

When designing your security system, you’ll need to decide which bulletproof glazing is right for your specific risk factors, workspace design, and daily operations.

THE FOUR TYPES OF TSS BULLETPROOF GLASS

Ballistic Glass is often not glass at all - or it’s combined with other materials. Different forms of glazing and lamination are often used in the most common
types of bulletproof glass or other clear ballistic materials.

These are the four most commonly used forms of clear ballistic barriers:

Diagram of components of acrylic
Diagram of components of polycarbonate
Diagram of components of glass-clad polycarbonate
Diagram of components of ballistic insulated glass

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Acrylic

Acrylic is a popular choice in ballistic installations due to its versatility, glass-like appearance and light transmission, and lower weight (compared to actual glass). Best used in indoor settings and available in multiple UL protection levels.

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Polycarbonate

Softer than acrylic and more resilient to impacts, especially from higher-caliber bullets. More weather-resistant, but with slightly less light transmission than acrylic. Often recommended for outdoor security.

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Glass-Clad Polycarbonate

Holds up against higher UL standards than either acrylic or polycarbonate. Poor light transmission but very durable. Can also incorporate additional features during the manufacturing process that can enhance security or customize design.

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Insulated Glass

Next-generation tech - an ideal combination of Safety + Aesthetics™ that’s quickly gaining favor in ballistic builds, particularly in exterior windows and doors.

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What is the Strongest Bulletproof Glass?

When evaluating ballistic glazing, any barrier with a UL Level 10 rating is considered the “strongest” bulletproof glass. Level 10 bullet-resistant glass can stop a .50 caliber bullet fired from a rifle such as those found in military applications. While it may be the strongest, Level 10 glazing is not used to build commercial bullet-resistant systems. The demand for such high levels of protection is not common among typical commercial buildings, and the Glass-Clad Polycarbonate needed to create Level 10 barriers would need to be a minimum of 3 inches thick and weigh around 30 pounds per square foot.

TSS follows the industry standard of fabricating systems using materials tested to bullet-resistant protection Levels 1-8. It’s also important to add that there are multiple ways to measure the “strength” of a piece of glazing. In addition to bullet-resistance, many types of glass are evaluated for their ability to stand up to forced entry. The risks you need to mitigate for your specific facility will determine what level of resistance to ballistic attacks or forced entry is appropriate for your system.

sample of ballistic acrylic
Bulletproof transaction window installation

Understanding Bullet-Resistant Protection Levels for Ballistic Glass

To be considered bullet-resistant, glazing designed for use in a bulletproof system goes through a series of tests to evaluate its ability to stop various ballistic attacks. The Underwriter’s Laboratory has established 8 levels of protection used by industry professionals, and each level is associated with preventing penetration from specific types of bullets and firearms.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when designing your security system is which level of protection is appropriate for your business. The protection you need for your security system will depend upon a variety of factors, and it’s important to remember that these levels refer only to the types of attacks a piece of glazing can withstand - not product quality. To learn more, take a look at our infographic on the 8 Levels of Bullet-Resistance.

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HOW MUCH DOES SECURITY GLASS COST?

For bullet-resistant security glass tested to UL Levels 1-3, you can expect to pay approximately $45-60/square foot. For the average comprehensive bulletproof security system, you may pay a total of around $15,000-$25,000. The cost of a ballistic system involves much more than the simple square footage of bullet-resistant glazing, and the estimates above may be higher or lower based on your project’s specific needs.

When considering your budget for a ballistic barrier project, remember that you’ll need to factor in the costs for each additional component of a complete system (like doors, framing, and accessories). Your final quote will also include costs allocated for design, manufacturing, packaging, freight, and installation. By offering custom-designed systems for every client, TSS makes sure you only pay for the products and services you need. The best way to determine the cost of your bulletproof system is to speak with a TSS expert.

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SECURITY GLASS VS. FILM: WHICH IS STRONGER?

The simple answer: ballistic security glass will stop bullets, and window film won’t. Security window film is not a ballistic material, and TSS does not sell any window film products. Since film is often proposed as a less expensive, “easy” safety solution for businesses with a smaller budget, we do think it’s important to understand the differences between these two barriers.

In this guide, we go over all the factors you should consider when deciding between ballistic barriers and security film.

Download the Guide
Diagram showing uses for bulletproof glass and security window film

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